Russia Prepares for a Big War: The Significance of a Tank Army

By Patrick Armstrong 

People who already understand how armies are put together should skip Part 1.

Part 1. How armies are put together

One of the things that I find irritating about battles in movie is that the director seems to think that battles are about getting an inchoate mass of soldiers together, giving a rousing speech and yelling "Charge!" That is absolutely not how it works nor ever has worked. Real armies are assembled out of groupings made from smaller groupings, themselves made from still-smaller groupings and so on down to the smallest group.

The smallest group is about ten soldiers. This is the fundamental bonding size – these are your buddies, the people you will really remember, the ones you depend on and who depend on you and for whom you will fight and sacrifice. Yes, you're fighting for Freedom or some other Large Cause, but it's really your buddy you're doing it for. So we start with about ten soldiers.

In the Roman Army this was the contubernium – a corporal, seven legionaries plus two servants who shared a tent and ate together. The fundamental tiny piece out of which everything else was constructed.

The next thing to know is the span of command or control. The commander of each level, is trying, in very difficult circumstances, to get his subordinates to do something they would never do in their right minds. They know perfectly well that the first guy in the house, the lead guy attacking the machinegun post, the first guy out of the trench, the first guy out of the landing craft is almost certain to be killed or injured. It is very difficult to get people to do this and long experience shows that a commander can only control three to five elements.

The next principle to remember is square or triangular. Armies are usually constructed by making the next level of organisation out of three or four of the lower level. Why? With three, you can have two engaged and one in reserve. (A great deal of the problem of a commander, once battle is joined, is knowing where and when to commit his reserves). The "square" structure allows two in contact, one in reserve and one resting, or two up, one in reserve and one manoeuvring. Five or six are too many but two are too few. This introduces the fundamental principles of "fire" (applying the destruction to the enemy) and "movement" (moving so as to apply that destruction most efficaciously). (Movie battles have lots of the first, but little of the last.)

Finally, we have the combat arms – infantry, armour (cavalry in its time) and artillery – and supporting arms. "Combat arms" because they directly apply the violence. Other specialities assist them: engineers help them move, transport moves them, medical patches them up, signals communicate, logistics supplies them and so on. No army can function without them.

In what follows I will discuss infantry organisations because they are the purest soldier – the other two combat arms are machines, whether tanks or guns, and the support arms are functions. But, the principles of infantry organisations are followed in the other components. It should be noted that different military traditions have different names for some of these things but it's all the same principle.

Three or four "tents" (sections) make a platoon; three or four platoons a company; three or four companies a battalion. At battalion level some specialisation will appear: it may have a mortar platoon, or a machinegun platoon, there will be a simple first aid element, some light engineers, communicators, headquarters and so on. But they are all capable of being ordinary riflemen if needed. The battalion is the first construction that is capable of some sort of independent action – it has enough companies to provide fire and manoeuvre and reserves, its machinegun or mortar elements give it some support. But it is still infantry and still pretty "light".

The next level is a brigade of three or four battalions. But there is a decision point here: do you envisage this brigade being an "independent brigade" or a sub-division of a larger formation? If the former we introduce the other arms, if the latter it remains all infantry.

An independent brigade, or brigade group, will have, in proportions depending on what you want to do, infantry, tank and artillery battalions from the "combat arms" as well as "support" elements: like combat engineers, medical and dental, post offices, laundry facilities, possibly a helicopter battalion and on and on. It is an independent military town of 4000 to 6000 people which needs almost everything a civilian town needs while also being capable of moving anywhere at a moment's notice. This formation is intended to carry out military tasks by itself with help from the air forces.

The brigade that is intended to be a piece in the next largest structure would have three or four infantry battalions and would still be mainly riflemen with very little added from the other arms. Next level is the division made of infantry, tank and artillery brigades in the proportion thought useful. In the Second World War divisions were usually the smallest thing one would see on the battlefield that could be given an independent task.

A tank division would be constructed the same way except that the basic "tent" is tank itself, three or four make a platoon, and then companies, battalions and brigades. Artillery would only rarely be organised into independent structures because while it has fire, it does not have much movement. The supporting arms – engineers, signals, logistics, medical and so on, because they exist for support, rarely appear as independent structures. In short "divisions" are infantry-heavy or tank-heavy (bitter experience has taught and re-taught that none of the combat arms can function alone).

Moving up, three or four divisions make a corps; two to four corps an army and a couple of armies make an army group.

So, a whole gigantic army group is assembled, step by step, out of our little "tents".

Part 2. What's All This Mean?

How big a war do you anticipate? A smallish one, a bigger one or a really big one? Your answer will determine the formations that you construct.

An important decision point, which reveals your answer, is whether you add in the other combat arms and specialised support elements at brigade (ie 5000 or so troops) or at division (10,000 or so)? If at brigade, you have made a decision that you expect your future wars to be rather small and that all-arms formations of 5000-or-so soldiers is as big as you need. If on the other hand, you decide to create divisions – formations about three times as large – you are showing that you are expecting a larger war. If you then start combining these divisions into corps, armies or even army groups, you are expecting a really big, all-out war against a first-class enemy. Something the size of World War II in fact. In 1945, for example, the Western Allies entered Germany with three army groups, totalling eight armies, totalling 91 divisions: about four and a half million soldiers.

It is possible to have a bit of both, but it's only a bit. You may decide on independent brigades but also have a divisional headquarters. But, unless the brigades routinely exercise under the command of a standing divisional headquarters, and that headquarters controls assets, only the idea of divisional operations is kept alive.

In short, if you stop at independent brigades, you are telling the world that you expect, and are planning for, relatively small wars. If you go to divisions you are expecting something larger and if you construct a corps (or army in Russian terminology) you are telling the world that you are preparing for a big war.

And so, an observer who knows how armies are put together, can tell a lot about what kind of war a country expects by understanding how it has put its "tent groups" together.

Part 3. The Russian Army

The Soviet Army was organised for a huge war: it had divisions, organised into armies (corps in Western terminology) which were organised into fronts (armies in Western terminology) and further grouped into TVDs or Theatres of Military Activity (army groups in Western terminology) all backed up by a conscription and reserve system, immense stocks of weapons and gigantic pre-positioned ammunition dumps. This time, the Soviets did not intend to fight the decisive battle an hour's drive from Moscow. When the USSR collapsed, so did that structure. The most ready elements were based in the Warsaw Treaty countries; Russia took responsibility for them and they were hurriedly moved back, shedding conscripts as they went. The formations which would have been filled up and then supported the ready elements were in Ukraine and Belarus and lost to Russia.

For some years the management of the Russian army did not appear to have understood that everything had changed – that the huge Soviet forces were gone and would not magically fill up with hundreds of thousands of conscripts to fill up the "empty formations". But, they didn't know how to make them smaller either: we were always told in talks with the Russian General Staff that the state could not afford to pay the officers the pensions and housing allowances they were entitled to. And so this once mighty army decayed.

Perhaps it was failure in the First Chechen War that finally convinced headquarters that the Russian army was not a temporarily shrunken big war army. We started being told that they were re-designing their army around independent brigades. It was clear from reading the periodic military and strategic doctrine documents that the wars that Moscow foresaw were smaller wars, on the scale of border infractions or a Chechen-sized war in which the enemy would be small agile lightly-armed groups. For such conflicts, anything larger than independent all-arms brigade-sized formations would be too large and complicated.

And, gradually, between the two Chechen wars, "divisions" (which our inspections had shown to be empty of soldiers but full of poorly-maintained equipment and under-paid dispirited officers) disappeared and were replaced by "storage bases". We assumed these to be a way of avoiding the huge retirement bill while giving officers something useful to do. At the same time independent brigade groups began to appear, with the first ones in the south where trouble was expected. This is one of the reasons why the second Chechen war was a victory for Moscow.

At this stage, (I'm looking at the 2002 CFE data now) there were entities called "divisions" and "armies" (corps) but they were very understrength – apart from the North Caucasus, there were perhaps two divisions in the western area worthy of the name; neither of them deployed to the west. The real force was in the North Caucasus: three divisions, fully staffed and an army (corps) headquarters. But the future was there too with the first two independent brigade groups setting the pattern for the rest.

In short, by the turn of the century, in their published doctrine, in everything they told us in meetings, in deployments and in their formation structures the Russians were showing us they had no offensive designs against NATO and they expected no attacks from NATO. The south was where they saw danger.

The CFE Treaty showed us all this: the Russians were obliged to give us a list of elements showing their precise location and relationship to other structures with the number of soldiers and major weapons; we could go there and check this out at any moment. Thanks to the Treaty we always knew what they had, where they had it and how it was organised. Our inspectors found no discrepancies. But the NATO member countries never ratified the Treaty, continually adding conditions to it and, after years, Russia, which had ratified it, gave up and denounced it. And so we all lost (because it was reciprocal) a transparent confidence building mechanism based on full disclosure with the right to verify.

All this time the Russians told us that that NATO’s relentless expansion, ever closer, was a danger (опасность) although they stopped short of calling it, as they did terrorism, a threat (угроза); “dangers” you watch; “threats” you must respond to. NATO of course didn’t listen, arrogantly assuming NATO expansion was doing Russia a favour and was an entitlement of the “exceptional nation” and its allies.

It is important to keep in mind with the everlasting charges that Russia is "weaponising" this and that, threatening everyone and everything, behaving in an "19th century fashion", invading, brutalising, and on and on, that its army structure and deployments do not support the accusations. A few independent brigades, mostly in the south, are not the way to threaten neighbours in the west. Where are the rings of bases, the foreign fleet deployments, the exercises at the borders? And, especially, where are the strike forces? Since the end of the USSR they have not existed: as they have told us, so have they acted.

They planned for small wars, but NATO kept expanding; they argued, but NATO kept expanding; they protested, but NATO kept expanding. They took no action for years.

Well, they have now: the 1st Guards Tank Army is being re-created.

This army, or corps in Western terminology, will likely have two or three tank divisions, plus a motorised rifle division or two, plus enormous artillery and engineering support, plus helicopters and all else.

The 1st Guards Tank Army will be stationed in the Western Military District to defend Russia against NATO. It is very likely that it will be the first to receive the new Armata family of AFVs and be staffed with professional soldiers and all the very latest and best of Russia's formidable defence industry. It will not be a paper headquarters; it will be the real thing: commanded, manned, staffed, integrated, exercised and ready to go.

It should be remembered that the Soviet Armed Forces conducted what are probably the largest operations in the history of warfare. Take, for example, Operation Bagration which started shortly after the D Day invasion. Using Western terms, it involved eleven armies, in support or attacking; recall that the Western allies entered Germany with eight armies – five American, one each British, Canadian and French. Tank corps (armies in Soviet/Russian) are the hammers – either they deliver the decisive counter-attack after the defence has absorbed the attack (Stalingrad or Kursk) or they deliver the offensive strike. The decision to create a tank army (armoured corps in Western terminology) is an indication that Russia really does fear attack from the west and is preparing to defend itself against it.

In short, Russia has finally come to the conclusion that

NATO's aggression means it has to prepare for a big war.

As a historical note, Dominic Lieven's book shows the preparations Emperor Alexander made when he realised that, sooner or later, Napoleon was going to come for Russia. And everyone knows how that ended. As Field Marshal Montgomery, who had more experience of big war than anyone in the Pentagon or White House today, said: “Rule 1, on page 1 of the book of war, is: ‘Do not march on Moscow’."

This is what the light-hearted decision to expand NATO, "colour revolutions", regime changes, cookies on the Maidan and incessant anti-Russian propaganda has brought us to.

And it won't be a war that NATO will win.


About Patrick Armstrong
This entry was posted in Russia, The Military Art and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

104 Responses to Russia Prepares for a Big War: The Significance of a Tank Army

  1. 505th PIR says:

    The psychological (nationalism will be huge) and material investment in the 1st Guards Tank Army along with its historical role 43-45 and throughout the Cold War will make it hard not to use, especially in a Neo-Con driven, myopic, “Borgist” world. Superb and thoughtful post Mr. Armstrong.
    Could the upcoming election be more important? By the time 1GTA becomes fully operational, the next president and his/her first term/foreign policy will be up.
    Gheese, what formation are these headed to: ?? It will be a qualitatively better unit as well as possessing shorter lines of communication and relative home turf. A political accommodation with the Chinese will be a strategic win for Russia as well, but I digress.

  2. Chris Chuba says:

    Thank you for such a detailed post, I did not know about the CFE treaty. If people in the U.S. read your summation about how the Russians reacted to it versus the U.S. and other NATO nations I would imagine that our narrative of having Russia as the big bad aggressor would not hold. We do not analyze things in terms of how military organization can telegraph a countries future intentions, instead we look at multiple headlines on Freebeacon like how Russian Jets flew in the direction of the U.K. and shriek in horror at the newly resurgent Russia.
    Now thinking out loud, what type of thing could NATO actually attempt to do against a nuclear armed Russia assuming that the had this intention?
    1. Encourage Ukraine to break Minsk 2 and attack the tiny Donbas enclave, yeah, this is plausible. This would be perfect, a proxy war that does not invite direct retaliation by Russia. In fact, retaliation by Russia to protect the DPR itself would be portrayed as aggression. My heart sinks, there is a high probability of more needless and unnecessary death in Eastern Ukraine because of imbeciles in the West encouraging it. How would Russia respond?
    2. I can’t see NATO doing anything other than stirring up trouble in the neighboring Republics or in the internal Muslim population as a direct attack on Russia would be too insane, even for a Breedlove. The indirect way seems to have a better risk / reward. Still I suppose that it is prudent of Russia to have a large Tank Army just so that they don’t have to go from zero to using Nukes in the event of an attack.

  3. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think what is insane is the inclusion of the 3 Baltic Republics in NATO.

  4. JJackson says:

    Thank you – excellent briefing.

  5. SmoothieX12 says:

    Excellent piece, Patrick. The division structure was coming one way or another once the cabal of the military “reformers” either died out or was removed.

  6. JHG says:

    Excellent post. One of my history professors said that the West always makes the mistake in counting Russia down and out and she always comes back. Now she has a formidable leader in Putin after that Western backed buffoon Yeltsin. We live in interesting times

  7. We live in stupid times. I’d say. The interesting bit (in the Chinese curse sense) is yet to come.

  8. cynic says:

    Has the USA been organized for a big war all along?

  9. turcopolier says:

    This is a useful post in many ways. I am reminded of a meeting in the Pentagon during the Rumsfeld era, a meeting of military people who might pass on a message. There were various generals, colonels, the odd sergeant major(SOF). The generals said nothing of course. As a group they do not generally share their wisdom with the masses and they might be caught out in a disagreement with policy. Rumsfeld presided. The main briefing item was the transition of the US Army from division based structure to one in which the brigade would become the basic structure for overseas work, but in which division headquarters would be retained to oversee training in US garrisons, for the obvious purpose of having “head room” into which those with sponsorship could be promoted to general officer ranks and in which the division headquarters itself (as well as corps headquarters) would serve as a deployable command and control module for expeditionary purposes. it was clear from this that small wars on the model of COIN were anticipated. I asked Rumsfeld what would happen if the US had to fight a big war against a determined opponent who possessed a lot of good equipment. After an embarrassed moment during which Rumsfeld’s retired GO counselors (different for the attendees)stared hostily, Rumsfeld said of them “well,these guys told me this would work.” I was not invited again. pl

  10. oofda says:

    A good article, but one major correction- NATO countries DID ratify the CFE Treaty- they had to for it to enter into force. That isn’t why it fell into obsolescence – and the Russians denounced it. It was because the former Warsaw Pact countries- and even former Soviet Republics (i.e., Baltics) had joined NATO. To the Russians, the entire purpose of the CFE Treaty- and the Vienna Document (OSCE)- was now a one-sided instrument aimed against Russia.
    Patrick is correct in that the CFE Treaty declarations and inspections showed us where the Russians deemed the threat to themselves- from the South. And perhaps give reasons for the Russians going into Syria to attack ISIS.
    A listing of the ratifiers of the CFE Treaty:

  11. CFE Treaty went through several interations. What you’re talking about was the original NATO-WTO agreement. That was ratified all round but soon became obsolete as first the WTO and then the USSR broke up. What I’m talking about was the revised treaty which was negotiated a decade later. NATOland kept sticking conditions on it and eventually Russia gave up.

  12. A useful post and thread. Part of the Brigade focus IMO was unit cohesion. My basic problem with the U.S. is that military doctrine and strategy no longer aligns with the tenets of U.S. FP. Part of my long advocacy of withdrawal from NATO is that it is largely a way for the U.S. to interfere in EU politics without being a member of the EU. And the pressure to have NATO participate in out of area ops without considerations of long term deployments by all parties has led to tragic results for the alliance.
    And the notion that HELP WAS ON THE WAY by the civilian leadership of the U.S. for the military was a fictional notion allowing for self-deception by all. The understanding of the military/civil interface in the U.S.A. is IMO at its lowest level [by both] since 1945.
    And with the erosion of a uniformed military [in part caused by an unaccountable civilian nuclear priesthood and an expensive one at that] is rapidly leading to dissolution of the nation-state system which has to some degree maintained world order [not always successfully clearly] since 1648!
    Thanks again for the excellent post Patrick! BTW Patrick what would be your guess as to active service flag rinks that have held a divisional command or higher in actual combat worldwide?

  13. How many active? I imagine you’re about to tell me, but my guess would be that the pool of US from the two Iraq wars are mostly retired. And unless you want to include the Russian commanders in 2008 or in Syria, I suppose there aren’t many anywhere still serving. But, with a look at Wikipedia, neither Breedlove nor the guy commanding the US Army in Europe (Hodge?) look a bit like corridor generals to me.

  14. kao_hsien_chih says:

    It makes perfect sense if the goal is to maintain a potential stranglehold on St. Petersburg. No doubt that’s how Russians view it and they have every good reason under the sun to suspect it.

  15. Vince says:

    An excellent overview Patrick. Slightly OT but I found a free PDF at wikipedia on a little-known (outside of Russia) war of Soviet and Japanese forces in Manchuria in August 1945. The Soviet forces showed in this short clash (it was over in two weeks) a mastery of modern warfare which has never been equalled. I started looking for other books about this war and came across some freely dowloadable PDF files of books by a David Glantz – just enter his name in the search box at wikipedia.
    August Storm: The Soviet 1945 Strategic Offensive in Manchuria
    David M. Glantz
    Combat Studies Institute
    Fort Leavenworth
    February 1983
    I’m only halfway through August Storm but I’m staggered by the detail this author provides before the reader ever gets to the actual battles and maneouvres – structure of Soviet forces, Structure of Japanese forces, climatic data, terrain and a host of other detail. The maps and photos are very poor quality in the PDF I downloaded but the text and commentary is excellent, as are the tables of data. Do the US still provide this high level of material for their staff officers?
    Anyway, what particularly struck me were the opening Preface remarks by the author bemoaning the fact that the overall contribution of Soviet forces in defeating Nazi Germany had been seriously downplayed by Western authors and, in particular, by the surviving German generals in their memoirs in which they claim the Soviets were “artless” in warfare and that the Germans lost due to geography, climate and sheer numbers. The author strongly disagrees with this belittling of the Soviet war machine.
    His concluding remarks in the Preface: “Our neglect of Soviet operations in WW2, in general – and in Manchuria, in particular – testifies not only toward history and the past in general, but also to our particular blindness to the Soviet experience. That blindness, born of the biases we bring to the study of World War 2, is a dangerous phenomenon. How can we learn if we refuse to see the lessons of our past for our future?”
    The author’s remarks in 1983 show that this downsizing of Soviet achievements in WW2 is not of recent origin.
    These are the other PDFs by this author on wikipedia –
    (1) August Storm: Soviet Tactical and Operational Combat in Manchuria, 1945 by LTC David M. Glantz
    (2) The Soviet Airborne Experience by LTC David M. Glantz
    (3) Soviet Defensive Tactics at Kursk, July 1943 by COL David M. Glantz

  16. I knew Glanz. Very serious guy. He headed an outfit at Leavenworth that did really first class studies of the Soviet Army. I once asked him how he had ever been able to get such a thing up and running. He said he had a real protector in the Pentagon who absolutely left them alone for 3-4 years so they could get up to speed. He also insisted in hiring historians — no IR or Poly Sci types. Don’t know what’s become of it.

  17. ISL says:

    Fascinating and clarifying post, thanks. Would you have any idea if the new tanks were used in Syria? Based on
    There is a clear need for Russia to field test these in action somewhere, but presumably without the risk of escalation to full scale nuclear war- hence probably not Ukraine
    If not Syria, then Iraq, perhaps Kurds against Turkey in Iraq?
    Since Russia did not under shock therapy lose its armaments industry, I am guessing that their production costs are a relatively small fraction of US costs, normalized to say the price of oil, creation of the tank army is feasible (and per wikipedia ) by 2020. In the V-day ceremony, US media was filled with how one of the tanks got stuck.

  18. turcopolier says:

    Dave Glantz and I were in the same cadet company at VMI. He graduated in ’63 and I in ’62. pl

  19. bth says:

    Would you say that the brigade structure worked satisfactorily over the last decade and a half?

  20. turcopolier says:

    Yes. It has been adequate in wars fought against what are really minor opponents. pl

  21. Apparently they did supply the latest T-90s to the Syrian Army. As the Armata “breakdown”it was at the rehearsal; I think I recall that the official explanation was finger trouble by the driver (can’t find it on the Net). On The Day, several performed quite normally.

  22. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    “There is a clear need for Russia to field test these in action somewhere, but presumably without the risk of escalation to full scale nuclear war- hence probably not Ukraine
    If not Syria, then Iraq, perhaps Kurds against Turkey in Iraq?”
    A few questions based on this bit of prose:
    1-Do you really think that the most modern Russian armour would be given to kurds without oversight?
    2-Which kurds might these be?
    3-Who would be the overseers?
    4-Who would provide air cover?
    4-If the situation spirals out of control w/ the TSK crushing these Russian-aligned kurds in Iraq (as TSK well can; we are a real army-very much as described above), can anyone guarantee that there will not be escalation?
    It might be best to think twice before posting.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  23. rjj says:

    Links are nice.
    Glantz got heard here because the person who was supposed to lecture on “Women in WW2” couldn’t get there. He was a substitute. Wondered why.
    it is less obscure – discovery Battlefield series had a section on Manchuria 1945 suitable and USEFUL for domestic (non professional) consumption.

  24. visitor says:

    A similar observation applies to Kaliningrad.

  25. bth says:

    To say that three Baltic states have a strangle hold on St. Petersburg is just laughable.

  26. bth says:

    Kaliningrad is packed with tactical nukes and to imply that the Baltic states offer any threat to it is comedy.

  27. bth says:

    I was looking at the geography of the tank deployments planned and it looks to me like they are designed to intimidate Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

  28. turcopolier says:

    I think it is all BS that there are regular Russian Army troop units in eastern Ukraine. pl

  29. cynic says:

    What is the point of senior generals; what do they do all day if they have no formations of troops to boss?

  30. cynic says:

    I’m confused by the numbers. If 30 men make a platoon, 90 make a company, 270 or say 300 make a battalion, 900 or say 1,000 make a brigade, and 3,000 a division. I had thought that battalions were 5-600 and divisions 12-15,000. Those are huge differences, leaving a lot of scope for tanks, guns, engineers, postmen, medics etc. It almost seems as if a level of organization is missing. What am I getting wrong?

  31. turcopolier says:

    you missed the point. In garrison in the US they supervise training and do administration. When their divisional or corps headquarters is deployed to combat they command whatever troops they are given. Salisbury was evidently a great favorite of his half brother John. pl

  32. bth says:

    Might be useful to keep an eye on events in Belarus this year.

  33. Bill Herschel says:

    I would be interested in knowing the opinions of the commenters on the proposal that Russia could have won WWII without the “Allies”?

  34. bth says:

    There have been Russian ‘volunteers’ on leave and in combat in eastern Ukraine in the last 24 months with Russian equipment. But that isn’t what I meant. The Russian tank units Armstrong referenced are supposed to be going into Voronezh, Chelyabinsk and Boguchar as I read the news, which are in Russia but close enough to borders let the keep the neighbors up at night when the engines rev. The tanks aren’t deployed against NATO but against Russia’s former USSR republics.

  35. StoneHouse says:

    PL and PA, thank you both for this terrific, high quality blog post. I am looking forward to re-reading it and to returning to the comments as they fill up (one of the great effects of truly quality posts is that they inspire rich and information packed comments i.e. Vince’s). Also, Patrick, although you suggest that the well informed should skip part one, I have never read quite such a clear and concise explanation of command structure any where else thus far. Thanks again. Best.

  36. Bill Herschel says:

    His article is absolute must read. Facts. No spin. And very useful background for anyone observing the events in Syria since September 2015.

  37. Kunuri says:

    IZ, for field testing the new weapons systems, not the Kurds, not in Iraq, not in Syria, but most likely in Nogorno/Karabag in Azerbaijan/Armenia, as we see currently. I looked up the armed forces of both nations today, they are supplied mostly by Russians, but everyone else around the world. Big arms, small arms, M16s and AK74s, Land Rovers and all kinds of M series from all nations. It is an arms manufacturer’s dream testing grounds.

  38. different clue says:

    Babak Makkinejad,
    I have heard/read the accusation that the 3 Baltics are “our” pawns. I think we were “their” suckers. And Poland’s sucker too.

  39. Kunuri says:

    “If the situation spirals out of control w/ the TSK crushing these Russian-aligned Kurds in Iraq (as TSK well can; we are a real army-very much as described above), can anyone guarantee that there will not be escalation?”
    Sorry to disagree with you here IZ, or if I may call you Ismail Bey, or Komutanim, TSK never had the international alignment of the stars, or internal unity and determination to crush the PKK aligned Kurds in Northern Iraq. As for ability of the TSK, I do not doubt it, but I doubt what it would accomplish. Kurds of Northern Iraq are currently aligned with the Russians, but in the recent past it was the USA, before it was Saddam, and before it God knows who. Surely PKK resides in Northern Iraq within the Kurdish part of Iraq, in caves and enclaves, and Barzani is best buddies with RTE, but PKK exists within their area of control, fully functional and seemingly immune to all F16 attacks from the air. And PKK has vital links to the fish pond within Turkey and beyond, that’s how they survive. In short, unless the Kurdish problem within Turkey is resolved politically, a successful extermination of PKK in Northern Iraq will simply diminish it into an IRA like operation within Turkey, still claiming many innocent lives through random bombings, mass murders and like.
    On a personal note, I got to know quite a few radical Kurds over the years, they sound quite reasonable to me as they revealed their grievances as Turkey citizens of a different, but not entirely distinct culture and tradition. Their inclusion as they like it within Turkish Republic as fully equal participants will be a gain. Past killings and displacements on both sides can/may be forgiven, but still mourned just as intensely on both sides, if the future can guarantee no more.

  40. Dubhaltach says:

    Don’t forget Poland. In fact including any former Soviet bloc countries in NATO was lunacy of the first order.

  41. cynic says:

    I’m still missing something. Salisbury and other nobles were important and powerful figures in their own right, basically owning and administering most of the country. As his Wiki entry records, he was not only a high level military commander but also a senior administrator on behalf of the King in various offices, and exerted political influence. That’s a lot more than being a uniformed bureaucrat who has no political, economic or even military strength of his own which would make his loyalty important.
    If there’s a cunning plan for post-apocalyptic recovery, a sort of revived Cromwellian ‘Rule of the Major Generals’, featuring America’s general officers as the new nobility, I think a lot of people might get a severe shock when they meet the new boss – a lot tougher than the old boss!(I hope they won’t ban Christmas.)
    I could understand that practicing the skillful handling and use of large formations of troops would be useful training for senior generals, even sometimes with actual troops to learn what could go wrong and how to recover; and perhaps responses to natural disasters and riots,’assistance to the civil power’.Internal administration is a surprising use of the highest level of talent available, and I had thought that actually training troops was the job of NCO’s and junior officers. Maybe things have changed since the days when a Peninsular veteran wrote that ‘the sergeants taught us how to fight, and the officers showed us how to die.’

  42. ISL says:

    Hmm, I was trying to posit a way to get a Nato Airforce member to engage with the new Syrian Tanks, and not have Nato in Ukraine.
    1. Russian oversight would be critical
    2. Not sure which Kurds, but Turkey often bombs Kurds in Northern Iraq, main problem would be the Central govt of Iraq which could see this as a threat to them
    3. Overseers would be Russian SOF
    4. Hmmm, aircover, perhaps Iranian? Alternatively, Russian trainers in Iraq to support Iraq airforce training.
    5. Plausible deniability is obviously needed.
    Perhaps if the EU wants to get more involved in Libya an opportunity may arise.
    I suppose they could be given to donBass, but given the state of the Ukrainian airforce and army, probably not a good test.

  43. jsn says:

    Another very educational post, thanks to the author and his host!
    Is it posable that this is Putin’s “star wars” moment?
    The Bear has more or less matched now what we’ve done with IT following Reagan’s “star wars” programs. Maybe Putin sees the Borg committed to special forces and outsourced mercenary warfare, recognizes what John Robb sees here and understands the one thing NATO can’t do is man a real Army Group.
    The West has spent the last fifteen years doing to itself in slow motion what it did to post Soviet Russia with “shock therapy” with similar enough results to have resulted in the Trump/Sanders middle fingers to the establishment. And foreign news only makes sense on Samizdat web sites…here in the Muffled Zone.

  44. Dubhaltach says:

    The Combat Studies Institute is a stunningly useful resource but there’s so much material that it’s easy to get befuddled. They produced this list of “Books for the Military Professional” as a PDF back in 1995
    It provides a useful jumping off point for those who want to inform themselves a bit better on various topics.

  45. doug says:

    I recall skimming the new field manual circa 2006 when COIN was all the rage.
    I look at it much like I look at common core math which was also all the rage. Mostly it’s (math common core) now just rage.
    The problem with common core math, which seeks to teach a strong understanding of math rather than rote memorization, is that it is an absolute failure when taught by teachers that don’t have but a cursory understanding of math and that’s, unfortunately, a rather high percentage.

  46. Chris Chuba says:

    IMO our misunderstanding of the Eastern front during WW2 was a perfect storm.
    1. Soviets became our enemies and we had no access to their archives.
    2. German generals writing memoirs and again IMO, while saying some useful things also covering their rear ends and playing on our ego. They basically said, oh, the Russians just overwhelmed us with numbers, you Americans, like Gen. Patton were just so much more skillful. This was music to our ears.
    Glantz accessed the Russian archives and being fluent in Russian was able to read them directly. I highly recommend his book ‘When Titan’s Clashed’ because being only 290 pages and covering the entire war on the Eastern Front, it is a great overview. He also describes the Manchurian campaign against the Japanese.
    I had the misfortune of seeing an Oliver North ‘War Stories Episode’ about the Russian Front that had an interview of Glantz and with the magic of editing, showed Glantz saying something that I know is not representative of this views. I expected it to be a terrible episode, for some reason I just had to watch the train wreck.

  47. cynic says:

    Nice one, Colonel! A link via the wrong side of several blankets, back to England’s most deplored king, and back to William the Bastard. Impressive. Your claim will be far down the line of succession, but if something were to happen to a lot of people, and you were to work on that Catholic thing… we could get used to calling you, ‘Your Majesty’!

  48. Mark says:

    What I remember about Rumsfeld – or, more precisely, his organization – was its contempt for the professional military. Regardless the occasional hand-over-the-breast-pocket stirring speech in tribute to the veterans on Remembrance Day or such martial holidays, Rumsfeld & Co. thought the Army’s upper echelon was a bunch of old nannies who did not understand modern warfare. Famously, when General Eric Shinseki – who served two combat tours in Vietnam and ended the war with only half a foot on one leg after stepping on a mine – told the assembled exceptional world-shapers that knocking over Iraq would require “several hundreds of thousands of soldiers”, Paul Wolfowitz (self-styled egghead whose worldview “was forged by family history and in the halls of academia rather than in the jungles of Vietnam or the corridors of Congress” said that estimate was “wildly off the mark”.
    Ten years later, Wolfowitz admitted the USA bungled Iraq, although nobody in that administration ever apologized to Shinseki. The descriptive phrase which sticks with me of that administration is “impenetrably ignorant”.

  49. VietnamVet says:

    This is a very interesting and informative post. I have two additional points. An invasion of Western Europe by the Russian Tank Army would inevitably result in the use of nuclear weapons and destruction of the Northern Hemisphere. Someone somewhere being overrun would ignite their tactical nuclear weapons. Also, it is also a huge cost in a time of declining oil revenue. That Russia would take this step shows their desperation. They are trying to pound sense into the Western Elite. Up to now this has been futile.
    Mankind’s only chance to survive is for the people to regain control of the western democracies and once again make corporations subservient to the will of the people. The Russian government might do well to to reassert the sovereignty of nations and work to ratify treaties to assure a secure and peaceful world. Counter Western Agitprop with the truth.

  50. Neil R says:

    “BTW Patrick what would be your guess as to active service flag rinks that have held a divisional command or higher in actual combat worldwide?”
    It depends on how you define “combat” in terms of divisional command. Is it high intensity (e.g., potentially Korea) or medium intensity (e.g., OIF in 2003)? Or GWOT deployments? GWOT produced plenty of divisional and corps CGs who are still active. Remember the pyramid structure of senior officer promotion. There are only a handful of 0-4 billets. Of course I distinctly recall some people like Nagl and his cohort referring to COIN as the “graduate level of war.”
    If your standard is something like OIF in 2003, then the answer would be zero. Buff Blount retired in 2005 after landing on Rumsfeld’s craplist for questioning the decision to disband the Iraqi army. His 3ID had performed magnificently. Among his three brigade COs, William Grimsley retired two years ago as the CoS of USSTRATCOM. Dave Perkins (2nd BDE) who along with Blount shortened that campaign with a classic demonstration of mission command (Auftragstaktik) now runs TRADOC. Dan Allyn (3BDE) is the new Vice Chief. Among BN COs, Terry Ferrell (3-7CAV) is now the CoS at CENTCOM. His squadron was just outstanding in 2003. As it happens in every generation, most of the division’s maneuver battalion COs like Eric Schwartz and Marcone have retired from active duty and moved on.
    Besides I’m not sure what divisional command in combat has to do with senior leadership for the next war. Among senior generals in the ETO back in 1944, these were their last combat commands in the previous war:
    Eisenhower (none)
    Bradley (none)
    Devers (none)
    Clark (infantry company)
    Hodges (infantry battalion)
    Patton (tank brigade)
    Patch (infantry battalion)
    Simpson (none).
    As for Germany, Rommel had commanded a mountain infantry battalion. Hermann Balck was an infantry company CO (and despite his lineage Balck absolutely refused a “Kriegsakademie” assignment from the Truppenamt because he was what we might call a muddy boots soldier). Manstein commanded an infantry company before becoming a general staff officer after a serious combat wound. Rundstedt was a staff officer throughout the First World War. Guderian was a signals officer. Kesselring was commanded an artillery battery in WWI.

  51. Christopher Fay says:

    The links to the Grantz pieces are not working.

  52. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    No komutan here. Just an old infantryman.
    Anyway, I am sure you well know that executing guerilla strikes is a much different operation than fielding tanks or occupying and holding land. PKK/PYG, with or without US or Russian advisers, will have a problem if they engage TSK in direct combat. BTW PKK had tried this a few decades ago, and failed spectacularly. They have been learning this lesson again, the hard way, for the past four months or so.
    I, too, have known, many “radical” kurds. In my experience their “reasonable” rhetoric is usually at odds with their actions. They push “Kurdish Nationalism”- and get “Turkish Nationalism” in response. They have been quite useful for tayyip.
    IMO, in the past four decades, the Kurdish issue in Turkey has been funded and guided by the West, and mainly the neocons, for their own ends. One of the goals has been to make ME more welcoming for the Izzies. Now Russia is in play-and the kurds are seeking, yet once more, to get something through the power of a “benefactor”. It is a risky proposition.
    Be safe.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  53. ISL says:

    Nato Airforce member to engage with the new “Russian” Tanks

  54. Babak Makkinejad says:

    In Iran, the 3 big cultural demands of Kurds: celebrating Noruz, publishing books in Kurdish, and teaching of the Iranian Kurdish dialect (Kermanji) at the university are all met.
    But the antipathy to other Iranians persists – the most intense one directed at Azeri Turks.
    Until and unless any form of state has disappeared from Iranian Kurdistan and every Kurd has become a king in his own valley – like Agamemnon – they will maintain their grievances against any and all.
    I imagine that once the state has withered away and they are left in a situation reminiscent of Somaliland; then perhaps all the international do-gooders will send them enough fuel and food to keep them from starvation while they themselves are fighting among themselves.
    I suppose the Kurds might consider that situation with “No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” to be preferable to the existence of any state structure that constricts them in pursuit happiness.
    All over the world, we are not fighting doctrines or ideas – we are fighting fantasies that harken back to Pleistocene and the old stone age.

  55. Babak Makkinejad says:

    On your number 1: what would the point be, Kurds will not be able to either operate that tank or service it.

  56. Dubhaltach says:

    I’ve just tested them using another machine and a different browser – they’re working for me. Try opening them in another tab. Be aware that they’re to PDFs so the problem could be your firewall. Try right-click → save link as.

  57. Ulenspiegel says:

    While I like Glanz’s hard work to access Soviet archieves and write as westener a more Russioan centred history of some WWII operations, he IMHO partially spoiled this by using too much Soviet numbers/assumptions on German forces and decisions.
    For the German side the series “Das Dritte Riech und der Zweite Weltkrieg” is superior and it is said that some of the authors have spend a lot of time in Soviet archieves, too. 🙂

  58. Thanks so very much for your fascinating answer and hard work reflected.

  59. turcopolier says:

    There are also three sureties of MC in the tree. pl

  60. SmoothieX12 says:

    Actually, Glantz and House point out, correctly, that US views on War on Eastern Front were primarily shaped by German sources. Glantz’ and House’s “hard work” is not in “accessing Soviet archives”, to which many, including openly tendentious “historians” were granted access, but in meticulous and professional study of the Eastern Front and factors which shaped the largest war in human history. To do so requires a bit more than just “access” to archives. As per German “view” on that war–just running numbers on actual Wehrmacht losses is a very difficult task and then comes self-serving factor in many German memoirs. You know, while Wehrmacht was fighting in Winter freezing to death, Soviet trenches had balmy 70 degrees F and flip-flops and shorts were issued for Russian soldiers, if you get my drift.

  61. SmoothieX12 says:

    Generally, anything, starting from Leavenworth Papers, graduate theses, by officers of US Army Staff College’s Department Of Slavic Military Studies through actual works by Glantz and House should be on the “must read” list for anyone who wants to know war on Eastern Front in Anglophone world.

  62. Chris Chuba says:

    I get your point Ulenspiegel. I read a book by NIklas Zetterling on the Battle of Kursk, who is very passionate about this issue, that many have used Russian archives to document German losses at Kursk and ignored the German archives.
    Incidentally, Zetterling was not accusing the Soviets of intentionally inflating numbers, he claims that there is a natural tendency of armies to inflate the damage that they inflict on their opponents. Also, whenever you are in a defensive phase of a battle, you cannot double check your original estimates. Zetterling’s rule can be summed up as ‘whenever possible, use an army’s own archives to document their losses’.
    I have a write up on the Battle of Kursk queued up for the next ‘open thread’ because I figured that there are a lot of knowledgable people here and I’d like to get their take on it.
    I’ll google “Das Dritte Riech und der Zweite Weltkrieg”, hopefully there is an English translation available.

  63. SmoothieX12 says:

    Actually, there are many genuine Russian volunteers without quotation marks. As per “vacationing” people–if there wouldn’t have been any, Putin would have a lot of explaining to do both publicly and behind closed doors.

  64. Chris Chuba says:

    This is a closely related, if slightly off topic. I don’t know if the fundamental organization of Russia’s tank army of today differs from their tank army of WW2. I read a comparison of the relative strength of German vs Russian units. A Russian tank army was roughly equivalent to a German panzer corp and a Russian tank corp was roughly the strength of a German panzer division. It helped me understand battles a little bit more. I thought I’d mention this just in case anyone else was tackling this subject.

  65. Neil R says:

    I agree. I met a number of 7th Panzer veterans who visited Bad Kissingen during their reunion in 1981. Back in those days the US Army had what John Mearsheimer had later termed the “Wehrmacht envy.” It was very interesting to talk to those old timers who somehow had survived two or even more remarkably three years in the east. Not all of them shared this view, but there clearly was bias that an outsider would notice. It was worse among some in the Bundesgrenzschutz who hadn’t even fought in the war. But they were sons of those among the Ostheer who didn’t make the grade for Bundeswehr after the war for either political or competency reasons.

  66. FB Ali says:

    A very informative and useful article. Thank you, Patrick.
    There was a piece on a similar topic a few days ago in Russia Insider: NATO would probably lose a war against Russia. The writer uses a pseudonym, raising the possibility that it also was by PA.

  67. Alexey says:

    I don’t remember quote correctly, but someone claimed that if to sum up all soviet commanders reports on casualties inflicted on germans Wehrmacht must have been destroyed ten times over. Off course that is also true about german claims. The only number that opposition usually knows better are POWs.

  68. bth says:

    Plenty of equipment moved along with the vacationers and not just the obsolete stuff. Drones, anti-aircraft, EM warfare items were not surplus. As to where the conflict is now, I would say the main powers including Russia in them want this conflict to end along with the sanctions by around August if I had to guess on timing

  69. J says:

    If the hammer were to drop today, I can’t see where NATO would stand a snowball chance in hell against Russian combat.
    Sad how NATO and DC forget the hard lessons of День Победы (Victory Day), the Russians sure haven’t. And each new Russian generation is educated to the point that they well understand the sacrifices of the previous generations that sacrificed so there is a День Победы celebration each May.
    I honestly don’t think NATO understands or knows anymore about the Russians and what makes them tick. And with individuals like Breedlove and his new successor leading SHAPE/SACEUR, IMO doesn’t make things fare any better.

  70. J says:

    What has the Russians alarmed, and determined, are the little heads of the WWII Nazi hydra that seem to be poking their little heads up around Europe today. Russia will go proactive regarding the reborn European NAZI threat. Remember that Putin’s family and many members of the Russian Duma lost loved ones combating the WWII Nazi threat.
    I don’t think that Breedlove and his staff, nor his successor truly understand the level of Russian determination to not let history repeat itself.
    Putin is a strategic thinker.

  71. SmoothieX12 says:

    Obviously. To fight a war being outnumbered 1 to 3, if not 1 to 5, one has to have a lot of technological prowess. Obviously Ukrainian Army’s comm and ECM systems were pretty much suppressed but that was done mostly from Russian territory. There were even Pantsyr-S systems there, which served as a serious warning for Ukrainian Air Force (rather what’s left of it after being sold abroad and cannibalized for spares).

  72. ex-PFC Chuck says:

    Don’t forget that the scumbag Republicans in Congress finally got even with him on Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et al’s behalf. They by blamed General Shinseki for the VA problems on his watch that were due largely to those self-same Congress critters’ refusal to fund the agency sufficiently to properly serve vets who survived the carnage they created. Not that their Democratic colleagues stood much taller.

  73. Castellio says:

    Yes, ditto. Appreciated.

  74. LeaNder says:

    “The only number that opposition usually knows better are POWs.”
    That’s no doubt true. But how would you define opposition in this context?
    Not military archives too? Am I supposed to think that relatives e.g. Red Cross search attempts wasn’t one way or another connected, or that military archives showed no interest in in these lists too?
    Never mind that it may mean serious troubles to connect the data in the larger context of official reports back home, to the extend they survived – chaos at one point — and relatives without notice wanting to get information?

  75. Babak Makkinejad says:

    That a war against Russia is being publicly discussed is itself an indication of a colossal failure of statesmanship.

  76. This reminds me of the evolution of Airland Battle doctrine from the active defense doctrine. I attended IOBC in 76 and IOAC in 80-81. At that time our doctrine was almost exclusively focused on war in Europe. How do we keep our troops from being ground under the treads of the 3d Shock Army? In 76 the discussions were fairly pessimistic about our chances. In 80-81 there was a little more optimism although we young captains were still skeptical. All hope seems to be pinned on “servicing targets from stable firing platforms” – a euphemism met with universal derision in Building 4 of the Benning School for Boys. It meant keeping the TOWs out of range of the advancing Soviet tanks while picking off echelon after echelon of T-64s and T-72s. The instructors would dismiss our questions about suppressive fires, smoke and terrain masking. We had two Egyptian colonels in our IOAC class. One was a motorized rifle company commander at the battle of Chinese Farms in the Sinai where he helped bloody the Israel armored attack. They were recent products of the Soviet military education system. We asked them if our doctrine would blunt a full scale Soviet offensive in Europe. They weren’t too impressed with our talk of “servicing targets from stable firing platforms.” They said we were f@#ked.
    I found an interesting Strategic Studies Institute paper on “The Airland Battle and the Operational Maneuver Group” published in 1983. It’s valuable, at a minimum, from a historical perspective.

  77. Is there an open source history of employment of Depleted Uranium rounds and their effectiveness? Who uses them? Armor only?

  78. Neil R says:

    “Who uses them? Armor only?”
    No. A-10 Avenger guns used DU rounds. IIRC the Marine Corps Harriers also used them for their guns as well. M2/M3s also had APFSDS rounds with DU as well.

  79. SmoothieX12 says:

    “I don’t think that Breedlove and his staff, nor his successor truly understand the level of Russian determination to not let history repeat itself.”
    I think it is more complex than that but what is true–it took “Western” media a couple of months to even notice that people of Donbass were wearing (still do) St. George’s ribbon, which is a direct link to Great Patriotic War and Guards formations. References to Russian/Soviet/Russian military history and experiences are always there. In fact, in Russia you can not occupy a power position if you didn’t serve in the Armed Forces without valid reasons to skip service (chronic illness, family circumstances, special academic talents etc.).

  80. Alexey says:

    Not military but NKVD archives would be my guess, but I never researched this matter.

  81. scott s. says:

    Thanks for the article. I am interested in organizational issues, and find that many military historians seem to rush past this (often relegating them to “administrative matters”) in an effort to get to the battles.
    Currently I see USA is dumping the Brigade Combat Team concept and going back to Divisions — DIVARTY is re-created and Sustainment Brigades look like DISCOM. The latest wrinkle is aligning National Guard/Reserve elements to Active and vv.
    I’m also interested in the USA cavalry and wonder if the US concept which seems to me more mission based than hardware (tank) based is unique to USA or employed in other armies?

  82. Neil R says:

    “This reminds me of the evolution of Airland Battle doctrine from the active defense doctrine.”
    There is no NATO defense posture today other than do the unthinkable or surrender. Europe isn’t my area of interest and I welcome corrections. But briefly perusing public domain information on orders of battle, I see that the Bundeswehr has *two* Panzer brigades (3 if yu count the seedcorn like the 9th Lehr) and two PG brigades. They also have 1 mountain infantry and 1 airborne brigade in addition to two infantry BNs in the Franco-German Brigade. The Poles? 1 armored division and two mechanized infantry divisions. The Czechs? Two mechanized brigades. Hungary? 2 infantry brigades. You get the idea. The British Army has 10 brigades and IIRC they were due for even more downsizing.
    The numbers aren’t just the only problem. The most important aspect of alliance warfare is integration. Do they even share the most rudimentary set of common operational concepts and terminology today? Unless I’m mistaken the Poles use both old former Soviet equipment as well as whatever they bought off the bargain bin during the Great German Panzer Sale after the German reunification. How many NATO states have even come close to 2% GDP goal?
    I see absolutely no reason for the United States to again stand up the alliance. There is no reason for us to drive Russia and China into a tactical alliance just because fools in both political parties suffer from delusions of imperial grandeur from their “unipolar moment.” If Europe wants to maintain the alliance, let them pay the price of coordination. If not, well I could quote von Rundstedt’s comments after Keitel told him of the failure of a German counterattack in July 1944 and say, “Make peace, you fools!”
    As for OMG and AirLand, Starry, Richardson, Otis and many others who had corps/div commands in the mid ’70s all rejected Active Defense which really was something the FRG and the Heer wanted for political reasons. The Germans were among the last to transition to ALB as they just didn’t want to give an inch of their territory even after numerous discussions on Soviet echelonment.

  83. Tyler says:

    Neil, Chris. Et al,
    Sans a Purple Heart or a sustained exchange of fire no officer should be calling themselves a “combat veteran” in OEF/OIF if they were a field grade or above.

  84. annamaria says:

    Sounds like an “unnatural selection” of the opportunists over professionals. In consequence, it is hard to imagine what could make clean the family name of Rumsfeld. He might enjoy his wealth (whatever means it has been gotten by), but humans are social animals and Rumsfeld most likely knows that he is perceived as a dishonorable man by the decent intelligent people.

  85. annamaria says:

    “The descriptive phrase which sticks with me of that administration is “impenetrably ignorant”.
    That was a rather charitable characterization. In the time past, an engineer of a bridge would stand underneath it on a day of opening the bridge for a heavy traffic. These scoundrels, Rumsfeld & Co (Wolfowitz is a prime example) have never risked their lives and careers for either principles or protection of homeland. And what could be expected from a Congress that kneels before Bibi (AIPAC).

  86. aleksandar says:

    These figures are only about infantry.
    If you add, cavalry,engineers,artillery,medics and so on you will find your 12/15 000 estimate.
    Most of the time you need 6 to 8 people to support 1 first line soldier.
    Hope to have solve your problem !

  87. different clue says:

    Babak Makkinejad,
    Perhaps “statesmanship” is not the point or the goal, and perhaps it never was. If the OverClass Governators anticipate rising discontent among the citizenry as the carefully engineered poverty deepens and spreads through such means as Forced Free Trade Agreements and suchlike, the Governators might want to re-instate a long range Cold War to re-impose social discipline and obedience among us masses.
    So the more people that blogs like this manage to reach and mind-expand as to who is really creating the rising tension with Russia ( hint… it isn’t being created by Russia), the more people are resistant to the Governators’ pleas to join and support the New Cold War and the harder it becomes for the Governators to manage and contain us masses. The Bernie-supporters are one group of citizens who won’t buy into the Borg’s New Cold War and the Trump-supporters are another group of citizens who won’t buy into the Borg’s New Cold War. That’s two big and growing grouploads of people who are thinking outside the Borg more and more and more. The “captain” is beginning to lose control over the “engine room”.

  88. different clue says:

    William R. Cumming,
    How depleted are the Depleted Uranium rounds? What percentage of radioactive U-235 and/or any other radionuclides do they contain among and between their majority of stable U-238 atoms?

  89. cynic says:

    Thank you. I didn’t realise so many of those not more or less actually fighting were included in unit totals. I thought the 6 to 8 people would be in the bureaucracies and factories and essential services back home.

  90. Trey N says:

    I’ll be glad to take a stab at it. I became fascinated with the Eastern Front while playing Drang Nach Osten! back in 1974, and have collected a small library of books and wargames on the subject since.
    The Soviets could have done without the actual tanks and planes that Lend-Lease provided. They rightly considered most of these to be inferior to the models they were producing themselves, and consigned most of the Western tanks to training formations.
    What did make a huge contribution to the Soviet war effort was the logistical equipment: trucks, jeeps, radios, LOC gear (inc steel rails and locomotives), canned food, boots, etc etc.
    The 4WD Studebaker trucks were especially important during the spring and fall rasputitas. While German 2WD trucks were immobilized in the mud, the American vehicles could continue to succesfully operate. This was a major factor in the pursuit to and beyond the Dneiper River after Kursk in fall 1943, and especially in Operation Bagration in June 1944. Hitler’s plan to defend Byelorussia has been discredited in hindsight, but given what was known at the time it made sense: the festungs of Vitebsk, Orsha, Mogilev and Bobruysk blocked the main roads traversing the swamps and forests of White Russia, and the Germans considered the terrain between the roads impassible for major Soviet operations. The American trucks and jeeps provided the means to do what the Germans thought impossible: bypass their roadblocks with major mobile formations. The destruction of Army Group Center would almost certainly not have been as complete a victory without Western Lend Lease aid.
    If by your ? you mean “what would have happened if Britain, France and the USA remained completely neutral from the get-go, and Germany and Russia would have fought it out one-on-one from 1939/1941/whenever” — well, that’s a completely different question.
    Historically, Hitler the Soviet Union at the perfect time. After the Tukhachevsky purges his armor doctrine was discredited and large Soviet armored formations broken up. German success in Poland and France with their panzers caused the Soviets to reverse course, but they were in the middle of reorganizing and equipping their armored corps when the Germans invaded in June 1941. They were also in the middle of dismantling the Stalin Line fortifications on their old 1939 border and relocating them forward to the new border with Germany. Allies in the war or not, the Germans would have faced a much tougher and better-prepared opponent in the East if they had waited to invade until 1942.
    IMHO, the key consideration is the successful Soviet industrialization of Russia in the 1920s and 1930s. When they were able to evacuate a large number of those factories to the Urals and beyond in the weeks and months after the German invasion, their eventual victory was almost assured. Their big Achilles heel was dependence on the oil of the Caucasus: if the Germans had managed to capture those fields, and assuming the USSR was confronting the Nazi-led Great European Anti-Bolshevik Crusade all by itself, then Hitler might conceivably have achieved his plan of conquering the Soviet Union up to the Urals.
    All things considered, once the Soviets managed to weather the initial shock of the invasion the odds of an eventual German victory greatly diminished as time passed. Perhaps a more interesting question, however, is: could the Allies have defeated Germany in WW II without the Soviet Union???

  91. Trey N says:

    German General von Senger und Etterlin addressed this issue in his memoirs of WW II. He noted that non-military people he spoke with were usually amazed to learn that “only” 1,500 – 2,000 casualties could render an entire division hors de combat, not realizing that out of a division of 12,000 men, only 2,000 were combat infantrymen “at the tip of the spear.” He also noted that the other 10,000 support troops were usually not serviceable replacements, lacking the training and experience of the veteran landsers.
    Providing trained infantry replacements to front-line units was a problem that bedeviled all armies in WW II (and pretty much throughout history, for that matter…).

  92. turcopolier says:

    A couple of points: 1 – civilians always seem to think that whichever side has the best toys wins. 2 – Operational level skill counts a great deal. pl

  93. Ulenspiegel says:

    I am the last one who would dispute that the US view was shaped by selfserving biographies of German generals.
    However, Glantz had the disadvantage that at the same time as his books were published the historical department of the Bundeswehr published the series “Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg” which is when it comes to the German side the best you can get, quite a surprise after the hot debates around Volume 4. 🙂
    My beef (as scientist) with Glantz is that he in some instances uncritcally accepted Soviet numbers for the German side, when better were available. Frieser does IMHO a better job.
    To compare Glantz with older works misses completely the point. You discuss with or against “Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg”, not against “Lost Victories”. 🙂

  94. Ulenspiegel says:

    “Incidentally, Zetterling was not accusing the Soviets of intentionally inflating numbers, he claims that there is a natural tendency of armies to inflate the damage that they inflict on their opponents. Also, whenever you are in a defensive phase of a battle, you cannot double check your original estimates. Zetterling’s rule can be summed up as ‘whenever possible, use an army’s own archives to document their losses’.”
    But Zetterling does accept that many Soviet losses were wrong and German losses in Soviet sources were inflated when Soviet losses were high. 🙂
    You can check many good discussions in the archieves of the Dupuy Institute.

  95. cynic says:

    Thank you. I knew that the Roman legionaries were often skilled craftsmen, but also fought in the line and had thought the same still applied albeit to a lesser extent.
    That however raises another couple of questions. One is whether there remains any utility in the old views of the citizenry as minutemen or conscripts, levy or fyrd. The specialization seems to have been taken further.When might cheap Chinese made battle robots replace infantrymen?
    The other is about classification. The higher level units seem to include an increasing proportion of what in previous eras would have been regarded as camp followers, baggage train or artillery park, or even the central bureaucracy. Surely a lot of these could be administered separately with sections allocated to the fighting formations as required and not counted in their totals.Is their inclusion perhaps attributable to a tendency to hoard everything a big unit might need in case there’s a shortage and they miss out?

  96. Trey N says:

    The US military had the longest “tooth-to-tail” ratio in WW II, largely because it (along with the British) was the most motorized of all the combatants. The Soviets had the shortest ratio, the Germans were in between the two extremes.
    The USMC has always taken great pride that “every Marine is a Rifleman first”, in addition to his specialty. It’s too bad that they finally met a foe they couldn’t overcome: the PC Bureaucracy. They did, however, put up a valiant fight and a heroic rearguard action against allowing women in the combat arms.

  97. turcopolier says:

    Try N
    “From the Halls of …” Oh, come on! The marines never fought the Wehrmacht. pl

  98. DigoSSA says:

    Great article Patrick. Congratulations!

  99. Yonatan says:

    I am not a military man, but from my viewpoint it seems that one of the reasons for the existence of NATO is force (the USSR and now) Russia to focus on Europe rather than, or as well as, the US. The US would like to escape unharmed from any stupid adventures it creates. It seems that some of the recent actions in Syria by the Russians, and the weapons developed (Kalibr, silent d/e subs etc, small ships carrying cruise missles etc), indicate the Russia may not play that game.
    BTW, many thanks to the author for the very helpful introduction into the reasons miltiary structures are formed the way they are and what one can learn from the countries focussing on certain structures over others.

  100. WILL says:

    Lejeune, but that was WW1

  101. turcopolier says:

    Superintendent 1929-1937. He graduated from USNA in 1888, “On 10 November 1929, Lejeune retired in order to accept the position of Superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), serving there over eight years until October 1937. In February 1942, he was advanced to the rank of lieutenant general on the Marine Corps retired list.” He was probably VMI’s best superintendent.

Comments are closed.